De Lima urges Congress to look into hunger issues amid COVID-19 pandemic

Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday urged Congress to look into the record-high incidence of hunger in the Philippines during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Leila de Lima

De Lima, in filing Senate Resolution NO. 534, said it is imperative that the Senate review and re-evaluate the intermediate and long-term policy and anti-poverty programs of the government to ensure food relief would be provided to millions of Filipinos nationwide.

The senator pointed out that the government, in an effort to stem the transmission of the virus, has been imposing a series of lockdowns and quarantine measures of varying severity in order to control and monitor the movement of people in critically affected areas but has resulted to massive hunger incidence nationwide.

“The massive losses of livelihood and employment of millions of Filipinos resulting from these lockdowns have effectively ground the economy to a halt. Consequently, more and more households are also experiencing poverty and hunger in recent months,” De Lima noted.

The senator insisted it is important that the government simultaneously address the immediate needs of hunger and food security along with the need for the restoration of jobs and livelihoods as well as the revival of the country’s economy.

“Opening up the economy will help but Filipinos are hungry now. The Philippines has already been dealing with issues of chronic poverty and food insecurity among a significant portion of its population even before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived,” she stressed.

The Social Weather Station (SWS) earlier released the findings of its survey conducted from Sept. 17 to 20 showing that an estimated 7.6 million Filipino households went hungry due to lack of food at least once during the height of the pandemic.

De Lima noted the results of the latest survey showed a 10 percent jump, pointing out it is higher than July’s 20.9 percent and almost 22 points higher than December 2019’s 8.8 percent, before the COVID health crisis reached the Philippines.

 “This increase indicates a clear correlation between the government’s fledgling pandemic response and the level of hunger experienced by Filipinos over time,” she said.